Manas or mind- It is our thinking and feeling aspect. Thoughts arise in mind.
Mind has two tendencies- downward and upward
The downward tendency - going towards world and its objects and it is automatic. No effort needed. It does it naturally. In Vedas it is called Pravratti marg.
The other tendency is upward. Towards Soul, Divine, God. It requires lots of efforts.
We can understand it by way of a simple example- water. If water is splashed on floor, it will always drift downwards, it is its natural tendency. But when we have to lift the water up ( say in our buildings to overhead tanks) it requires booster pumps. Same is true about our mind. Making the tendency of mind upward is Nivratti marg.
But with good company, reading scriptures , blessings of Guru and Grace of God this downward tendency can be turned upward. This is Nivratti marg. The entire effort of yoga is to make the tendency of mind upward.
Peculiar Features of our Mind
The mind has no boundaries. Our thoughts can transcend the boundaries of space and time. Usually, we use this faculty in either brooding over the past or anticipating or fantasising about the future. Men with great imaginative power can utilise this faculty in a striking way, says Dr Soumitra Basu in Integral Health p. 53. We can use this imaginative power to make something creative, make new discoveries and inventions, to change the existing pattern of thoughts, to change our whole personality.
It is however ordinarily very difficult to control our thoughts. Our mind is like a public square, crossroads, where different thoughts arise: where do our thoughts come from? Does the brain produce them or is there a universal mind with which we are on the same wave length and from which we select those thought vibrations. It is an immensity from which one draws according to his personal affinity- says the Mother.
The mind has a unique capacity for self-reflection- it can turn around and observe itself. A part of the mind can separate itself and take a “ witness attitude “. This is how the mind can become aware of its own workings and is thus capable of introspection- a necessary requisite for subjective development. This is possible if one can quieten one’s mind. Dr. Soumitra Basu- Integral Health p. 55. Gita talks about the same to have witness like attitude ( साक्षी भाव) towards your thoughts. Just observe them arising and dissolving.
What disturbs our mind?
Maharshi Patanjali talks about various things that keep our mind disturbed, agitated and restless. Vrittis ( thoughts and things like that- right knowledge, wrong knowledge, imagination, sleep and memory) are one in short term, then there are vikshep in medium term ( disease, mental laziness, doubt, misplaced priorities and things like that) and finally there are longer term inborn afflictions called Kleshas ( ignorance, ego, attachment, aversion and attachment to life)
Sthool vrittis are enemies of general nature and they are not that harmful . They are in the form of attachment, aversion, greed, hatred etc. but the sukshma vrittis- they are of the nature of impressions , samskaras etc- they are our potent enemies and getting rid of them is a real challenge. They are hidden and latent so most of the time we are not aware of them. But when time and circumstances are ripe, they present themselves from nowhere and make ourselves angry, greedy, egoistic, envious etc. In yoga Maharshi Patanjali suggests abhyas and Vairagya to subdue these vrittis. The real challenge for a human being is to control the mind. In a Bhagwad Gita Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that controlling the mind , no doubt, is most challenging, yet with abhyas ( practice) and Vairagya ( detachment) it can be controlled. This is why it is said that Mind is a good slave but a bad master.
Subduing the mind makes mind stable; stable mind enables contemplation on our chosen object. Ibid p.320
Intellect- it is that part of our mind which is higher than the mind proper. It is called intellect बुद्धी । it is our discriminative and determinative faculty. Mind presents all the facts to buddhi or intelligence and after careful analysis buddhi decides what is good, what is bad and what should be done and what shouldn’t be done. Normally all our actions, behaviour, attitudes should be governed by intellect as it is our analytical faculty and makes right choices but mind being obstinate and powerful, it ignores intellect and does what it wants. The best thing is our mind should be governed by intellect and not otherwise.
Ego- it is our personal individuality. It’s our existence in the world. Loosely we may call it our self confidence. We assert our individuality in matters related to us. In order to pass on to the higher planes, one must first exist; and to exist one must become conscious, an independent assertive individual for this ego is indispensable, otherwise one remains mingled with all that lies around us. In case we don’t display that individuality, our existence - society doesn’t take notice of us, and accordingly we have no voice , no say and no recognition . So to survive in the world ego or individuality is essential. But if now one wants to rise higher and to live and lead a spiritual life, then this ego is the worst obstacle. Where God is everything and you are nothing, you are zero then only sadhana is possible. So long ego is there, spiritually cannot enter. Ego is the biggest barrier in the spiritual path says the Mother.